Wingate, N.C. – Top-seeded and 14th-ranked Wingate hit .315 on the match, sweeping fourth-seeded Catawba in semifinal action in the NCAA Southeast regional Saturday evening in Cuddy Arena. Wingate won by scores of 25-18, 25-17 and 25-21 to improve to 32-0 overall, advancing to the regional championship match for the third consecutive year. Catawba ended its season at 24-8 overall.
Junior outside hitter Cory McGowan led the Wingate attack, piling up 15 kills and 14 digs, hitting. 433 on the match. Freshman outside hitter Susie Murach added 13 kills, while redshirt sophomore right-side hitter Anna Hilton had 10 kills, 10 digs and a .400 hitting percentage. Senior setter Liz Willis notched 40 assists and eight digs, while senior libero Maggie Malone added 12 digs for the Bulldogs.
“Our players did a great job of preparing for this match this past week in practice, and it really showed in our execution of a game plan,” head coach Shelton Collier said. “We are certainly excited about playing in the championship match Sunday. Flagler is playing at very high level at this point; however, we are on our home court, so we are hoping we can play well enough to win.”
Junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Whitmer had nine kills to lead the Catawba attack. Senior outside hitter Shay Meeks added six kills for the Indians. Junior setter Jordan Raye had 19 assists, 11 digs and three kills, while junior libero Jenny Young had a match-high 17 digs.
A 3-0 Wingate run, capped by a kill from freshman middle blocker Lexi Potter gave Wingate an early 11-7 lead. Raye answered with a kill to trim the lead to three, but the Dogs responded with kills from Murach and Hilton to help stretch the advantage to 17-10. The Indians would get no closer than five the rest of the way. Kills from McGowan and Hilton made it 24-18, while another Hilton kill finished the first set.
Kills from Willis and Hilton, along with a McGowan ace gave Wingate a 15-9 lead in set two. Sophomore middle blocker Savannah Tomlinson answered with a kill to trim the lead to five. The Dogs scored the next four points to extend the lead to nine, thanks to two kills each from Murach and junior middle blocker Grace Krauser. Catawba would get no closer than seven the rest of the way. A kill from senior outside hitter Janice Ehorn, followed by a Catawba error made it 24-16. Wingate claimed the second frame on a Catawba error. The Bulldogs hit .368 in set two.
The third set stayed tight early, with a Whitmer kill and Wingate error tying it at 12. The Dogs scored five of the next six points to go on top 17-13. Murach started it with a kill, while McGowan added a kill in the flurry. A Meeks kill, followed by an ace from sophomore middle blocker Emily Richardson trimmed the lead to two at 19-17. Whitmer added a kill to get Catawba to within one at 21-20. Krauser responded with a key kill to push the lead to two, while McGowan slammed home the final three kills of the night for the Bulldogs.
Wingate had 53 kills and 13 errors in 127 attacks to hit .315 on the night. The Indians had 27 kills and nine errors in 103 attacks for their .175 hitting percentage.
Wingate and Flagler will meet in the regional title match for the third consecutive year. The Saints won 3-1 in the 2009 title match, while Wingate won 3-0 in 2010. Wingate and Flagler have met six times since the 2009 season, with the Bulldogs winning four of those contests. Wingate defeated Flagler 3-1 on the opening weekend of the season.